Category Archives: Stephen Black

Black Tofu Soup and The Reality of a Late Afternoon

I’m multi-tasking; this short piece of writing hops across topics like Southeast Asian cuisine, Bubiko Foodtour, self-promotion, AR, VR, branding, racism, philosophy, and the meaning of life. In short: I’m rambling.

We get out of a Grab car in front of a McDonald’s. A young Malay is standing and eating soft ice cream. We ask where the police station is. He doesn’t know, but asks an elderly Chinese, who does. Both men are friendly. We quickly set off down the covered sidewalk. Our destination is the cart of a vendor who sells kidney bean soup and almond paste. The internet says he is near the police station and he sells out by 5, sometimes earlier. It’s now 4:30.

VRLab! I didn’t know there was one here. This morning I had exchanged emails regarding an interview with Dato Jack, VR Lab’s founder. From outside, I can see two women signing in. I enter, explain my connection with Dato Jack, and am allowed to watch. After a thorough explanation and simple instructions, the two women put on headsets. First, they move their heads in all directions, then they slowly manipulate their hands and arms, acquiring the skills to become virtual archers. I study all this because I am writing a book about VR and haptics, as well as planning an AR startup that will eventually expand to VR.

The TV screens in the room show me what they are seeing: a castle under siege. Suddenly, an axe-thrower attacks so suddenly that the woman with braids jumps. Her headset falls off. I leave after a few minutes, by which time they are fully immersed: crouching, cautiously turning and laughing. They are killing people with arrows.

We rush back outside. The sky is soft and complex: rain clouds/blue sky/sunlight/evening. The atmosphere is fresh and I’m glad to have a camera. We find the soup vendor. He’s surrounded by people, all of whom seem to have placed large orders to bring back home. Nearby is a truck stall selling assam laksa. The aroma is uniquely seductive, like a tart, mysterious fruit beckoning from a bed of homemade noodles.

We are soon seated at a rickety table, experiencing multiple foodgasms from the assam laksa, the kidney bean soup, the almond paste and a plate of perfectly fried kway teow that we couldn’t resist. We finish and head into the U-shaped market. In an hour it will be packed.

Ears of sweet corn! I can honestly say I am a farmboy from Ohio, with many memories of corn fields and corn roasts. However, the corn I picked and the cows I milked were actually in Michigan. (OK, full disclosure, about the cows: There was only one. I was a five-year-old visiting a farm with my family. And, yeah... I was too shy to squeeze anything.)

A sign for Pun Tofu! Word play that is not wordplay. I write, often about food. Eight books. One, i ate tiong bahru, is a national bestseller in Singapore. Stories about my IT/VR/AR adventures in Hong Kong and Singapore will soon be a series on Popularium. This trip to the market is research for the text part of Bubiko Foodtour, an AR project. A stall sells kuehs and this is good: I heart kuehs.

The sky is peacefully exploding. Sharply outlined clouds, bulging with water vapor, dissolve into darkening, ragged zones of blue and orange. More generators are started. The lights of the night market come on as the moon rises in a kaleidoscopic sea of twilight. We eat black tofu. This same stall had intrigued us at another market, but we hadn’t tried it. We watch it being made and find a table. Surprisingly, the chicken soup served with it has the taste of green tea. The news of the day encroaches unexpectedly: skin color and Charlottesville.

I remember an article I found while doing research. In a city in Malaysia, over an unspecified period, the police took action on illegal street vendors. The breakdown: 158 actions against Chinese-based businesses, 103 against Malay businesses, 31 against Indians and 13 on other races. The harmonious flavors in the black tofu soup are wonderful , but not enough to take me away from thoughts about Nazis, Communists and the White House.

We step into the crowd one last time, studying foods like nasi lemak, Vietnamese pizza and salt-baked chicken. Five blind Chinese, all elderly, sit on red plastic chairs and sing Chinese songs. A man plays acoustic guitar, a woman taps a tambourine. There is a bowl at the woman’s feet. We listen as we watch Murtabak Sam make pandan pancakes with bamboo charcoal flour. We call a Grab and wait.

Now, here on Medium, are some of my experiences, my reality at that market. As I wrote this I remembered scenes, recalled what I was thinking and added new thoughts. I input my data into the internet, and now it is all over the world.

…one kind of wonder after another kind of wonder, all in something wondrous...

Haptics: Bubiko, Lei Cha and Data Science (Ingredients)

This is the second post in a series in which I have fun with lei cha, haptics and Bubiko. Later, when things are more organized and clear, I hope this catch the interest of data scientists, information specialists and CG filmmakers/animators. There is a fun dimension to all of this, but I seriously wonder what would happen if 1% of the earth's population ate one bowl of lei cha a week...10%? 100% ?What would happen environmentally, economically and to the health of everyone and the planet?

For now, a list of ingredients. In a future post, I will describe the ingredients and add links.If you know some ingredients that I missed, please add them in the comments section. Also, tips on places that make great lei cha are always welcome! Those too, can go in the comments section.

OK...the ingredients.(NOT a recipe)

The tea broth above is from Vege Station in Johor Jaya, one of my favorite places for lei cha.

INGREDIENTS for BROTH

100 gram basil

30 grams cilantro

Some salt

Sweet potato leaves

Broccoli

Garlic

Green beans

Chinese long beans (long-podded cowpeas)

Celery stalks

Basil

Oregano

Acenthopanax trifoliateus

Coriander

Artemisia

Sawtooth

Moringa leaves

Dill

INGREDIENTS FOR BOWL

Dried peeled shrimp

Sautéed meat

Dried tofu

Peanuts

Dried radish

Snow lotus

Ginko

Lotus

Gordon Euryale seeds

Green peas

Job’s tears

Chinese yam

Adzuki

Rice

Jack

Mung or scarlet runner beans

Soybeans

Black soybeans

Millet wheat

Wheat or red wheat

Barley

Buckwheat

Oats

Brown rice

It is likely that there are other ingredients.

Toyo Project 2

Toyo Project 1 is here

Again, I am in Kuala Lumpur, it is 2107 and Toyo is messing with my mind.

Seeing the picture in the first post was a shock. That night: Walking around the Lower East Side with some people on a lot of broken glass and we went to a bar first and the streets were all bodegas and Korean florists and guys selling drugs or dime bags and everything was fun, burnt out and/or threatening when we walked in the music was on and we were overlooking things and there were pipes and sculptures all over.

I took this photo of Toyo that night. Or so Toyo tells me.

okokokokokokokokokokokookokokokokoko

Hi Steve, sorry I couldn't serect any of Photos yet,? I have some question to ask, do you have an idea of Title of this book project? And where is Forcusing of my photo work? Like which period?like 80s Ny or NoSeNo 99 night event? You are thinking combining your NoSeNo Video, means you are more detail of your project , let me know wher to forcus my photos?!

WED 12:26PM

Hi Toyo...

Photo book.. no title yet...

Subject is simply ten photos. Up to you, but I hope I can decide 2 or 3. The point is to put together something that is interesting and full of information and stories. SO it could be anything... but maybe it is good to have only a few from No Se No, because that is so famous already.. As for teh video... I am not sure how it will work yet... I am thinking that my black and white videos will be the heart of the project. And some things, like No Se No, you also have... But the final result cannot be predicted right now. I am just wondering if you are interested or not. If you don't want, to.. I understand... If you are interested...for now that is good enought. I can include you as a possibility in my proposal. Then when I start to see my footage, I can better understand what can be made. For example, I videoed you talking... that must be interesting. Is all of it interesting? Is the tape damaged? Maybe you talk about something and you have a photo of it.. I remember you were speaking in Japanese... but you said "Don't carry mugger money" Maybe you have a photoof that. Maybe I have a photo or video of that... Konokanji... these kinds of questions... I am sorry I am not clearer...but I hope it will be an interesting experience and video.

Book again... if you have a theme or topic or title, I am happy to use it.

Steve Thankyou your reply, I'll talk to you later I gat go dentist appo again. Ok?

Ha ha ha... Japanese joke. I hope the dentist is Ok for you...

WED 4:44PM

THU 3:51PM

Hey Steve, yeah I get something from your comment, about forces! You are not forcing me and my photo so as you are not forucing you and your video,you are interested to make interesting book!? Combination of my photos with your video work and with some writing (story). I'm interested your Idea Steve! You are good writer that you showed me in Facebook. You have something in your head! Like christa G and Stelarc. .. Etc . That we can talk about or tell story about ?! I don't know now we should think and talk more ok ? I'll send you something later

THU 9:52PM

Toyo.. Please do not worry about the story.. The starting point is the photo. It can be a not famous person or a landscape or teh snow on cars. Anything! A tree a show a performance, teh sculpture garden The question is What is in your heart that you want to share?

8:50PM

Toyo... what do you think? Maybe we do one photo a week, or one photo a month? It is important for me to create a blog post that introduces the 10 photos...

Steve I'm sorry not moving our project well, I'll try to serect few tommrow to send you . All period of photos are from my heart.anyway imgoing to start early Ny snap shot, ok? I send you one special for you!

Toyo... No problem at all!

Now we have a start! I know every image is from your heart! I will show you the blog post in a day or two.Then if you think is OK, I will share with people slowly... Yoroshiku onegaishimasu. T H A N K Y O U

(TOYO SENT THE PHOTO THAT IS IN TOYO POST 1) Toyo... who is that singing?

Alright you see image ijust send? You are with microphone got it!

?????!!! Is that 8BC? Where?

Is that an image you want to use in the book maybe? I don't remember that event right now...

haha if you want we can! That was Jhon Sanders( sculptor) Party scene 1983 or 84. Many NoSeNo performers are there, the Brond lady is Shrin Take (Electra in a Bill's play Sharon Take next block from NoSeNo on Rivington st Basement studio

A SAturday night... Many pipes in teh ceiling.. a basement I was there only one time!

Idont know What Day night?! But you found your memory!yes? I too only went once Jhon was friend of Ray. Ok I send you one more image you took tho photo from my camera? I think,are you ready?

(TOYO SENT THIS PHOTO ) John , and me and other Brond girl!

wow

wow

wow

Chat Conversation End

Toyo Project 1

ANYONE CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THIS PROJECT. But yeah, you probably had to be there: LES in the 80s.

I have videos of No Se No performances and Toyo talking about life in the Lower East Side. (Thank you, Cowboy) If anyone has ideas on how to transfer Beta (Beta, not Betacam) tapes into today's technology, please get in touch. Thank you.

okokokokokokokokokokokokokok

I started this to bring attention to Toyo's photographic work and to see what would happen. Yes, I can write, but maybe I don't need to write anything. There is already one book about the Rivington School. Probably other people have more interesting things to say. Toyo's own memories and stories are treasures. I entered into this thinking that if I did write, I'd write about Toyo's images in a very impersonal manner, to counterbalance his intimacy. Topics like dates and short biographies, how Toyo constructs images, the challenges of film. Then, out of the blue... He sent some picture of me.

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OK... Let's get something out of the way. This series of blog posts is not about me. The first three introduce Toyo and myself, but after that... who knows? I graduated from RIT with a BFA in Photographic Illustration, with a minor in Film and Video. I graduated early, in March 1983. I was having a party and I told a teacher about it. He said where you going? I said New York City. He said what are you going to do and I said I don't know. He showed me a fax. Call them. If you work there, you get access to equipment. That's what it's all about. That was on a Friday. They wanted me to come in on Monday. I arrived in Brooklyn, sat by the river with my good friend Pat and wondered about the Manhattan skyline. We were waiting for another good friend, Ben to show up. We were going to stay at his loft.

The next morning Ben's girlfriend took us on the subway to Rivington Street. It was cold but there was a street market in the park we had to cut across. I imagined fruits and vegetables, maybe cooked chicken or something. We got closer, we were in the middle of it. The ground was completely blue, covered with empty syringe wrappers. Heroin. My interview was just on the other side. We walked through, I went up the stairs, started work the next day. That place was called Young Filmakers/Video Arts. The address was 4 Rivington. Later I moved right around the corner, onto the Bowery.

No Se No was at 32 Rivington Street. I left for a two week stay in Japan in October, 1984. The energy of what I experienced--and so much more, bursts out of every image Toyo has created. I am writing this from Kuala Lumpur, on July 18, 2017. I am seeing some of these pictures of myself... for the first time.

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Toyo Project 2 is here.

Stelarc: the sound of three hands clapping (#3 in the Haptics series)

Three hands clapping. Maybe the phrase is a cyborg Zen riddle. Maybe it’s not. I can only imagine Stelarc’s reaction upon seeing the phrase. He'll either ignore it and plunge into the heart of the text, or laugh his Aussie-mad-scientist laugh..

This post is casual, a pleasant way to continue my haptics series. So much of writing, art and AR/VR is done in isolation and it is refreshing and important to remember the human side of things. I’m reminded of how unusual the “facts” of my life can be: In Singapore’s Little India, I once had dinner with a man with an ear on his arm.

When I lived in Japan, I was fortunate to document a few of Stelarc’s performances that featured The Third Hand, including his monorail suspension, his "last". Years before that event, I was working in lower Manhattan, not far from where Stelarc suspended himself over 11th Street. Two of my friends rushed in and told me about the “guy who was hanging by fish hooks”. The information caused me to become became pale and deeply confused.

Photo by Toyo Tsuchiya used with permission.

Now, when I meet Stelarc, it is like seeing a dear friend, one who is always stimulating.

Stephen Black as lab rat

effect of low voltage electricity on muscles demonstration

Stelarc ear on arm

LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore. With Urich Lau and Steve Dixon. My first and only photobomb.

http://www.blacksteps.tv/unlocking-with-ears-stelarc/
man, hat, smartphone and dragonfly

Stelarc recording winged body, by Stephen Black

Stelarc has a piece in SPOKEN, a co-production between myself and Eugene Soh, The Dude. The first part of this series is here.

With Bubiko Foodtour at the I Love Penang Festival in KL

July 2, 2017. The I Love Penang Carnival, held in Central Park, Bandar Utama near Kuala Lumpur... Besides sampling food, the excursion was a way of uniting three projects of mine. First, Bubiko Foodtour tests were conducted for AR models and photos taken for her blog and Instagram accounts. Secondly, I created images with an iPhone, continuing a lifelong interest in conceptual fine art photography. Finally, the total experience will be the basis for a story or essay in Touching JB, my latest book project.

Mare Vaporum: Open Source Video Material/Artwork

tribute to Alfred Steiglitz

Artists, musicians, filmmakers, poets, theatre people, CG artists, GIF artist, data scientists, ANYONE...Feel free to use this video for any noncommercial project you like. Let me know how you use it and I will promote your project. Commercial projects: I am sure we can work something out.

SOME POSSIBILITIES: - visuals for ambient, flute, or piano soundtrack/music video - elements for any kind of music video - cutaways or structural elements for a film - theatre backdrops/projections - mashups with other videos - video reformatted into other GIFs (FWIW the file size below is 5.42 megs) - stills accompanying texts, like short stories or poems

Mare Vaporum

    WHAT: Shot on an iPhone near Kuala Lumpur. There was no goal, other than to capture the moment.

    WHO:

    Stephen Black

    NOTES

    I am interested in, and have been writing about, hands and haptics. Also, I am now rewriting a collection of stories and essays called Touching JB, in which tactile sensations figure prominently. And then there are my startup plans...

    gif.com screencaptures

    GIF possibilities created and suggested by gifs.com algorithms gif.com

    The GIF below was created by the algorithms at gifs.com. It was extremely simple. Thanks to this article on Gtricks. I learned how to upload on gifs.com .
    Gif artwork

    Gif artwork

    This project is a collaboration with the software and algorithms of gifs.com About the fingernails... they were real. I will write about this later, but they were a personal art project.

Urnovl/121 words: a brief essay about a great big little idea

The concept of Urnovl/121.com is exciting, but it isn’t new. Their ‘texts with a word count of 121 ’ approach is a bigger, prose version of the “17 syllable rule” of haiku writing. Brian Williams once ran Littlerature, which featured stories 1064 words long. I had a few stories on Littlerature, including one about 3how, which is included in red dot SAD. So, the fixed short form is an old friend of mine. I am sure there were, and are, other flash fiction sites based on a specific word count.

The Urnovl/121 website is exciting because it is state of the art literature. Potentially at least: as with any uncurated, free platform, there will be “interesting” submissions. Two Shades of Gray proved that “interesting” stories can have interesting results. “State of the art”, in this case, means mobile-friendly, social media-friendly, attractive design and visuals. One or two things could be tweaked, but the site is still in beta. Two upgrades are planned before September.

So far, I’ve posted three pieces. The word count of 121 is a bit low for my liking, but that’s what makes it interesting. The texts have more depth than tweets, yet can be appreciated immediately; no need for links nor downloading, like ebooks. Readers, and those working in publishing, can quickly decide if a writer is worth learning more about. FWIW: This post has 242 words, the equivalent of two posts on the Urnovl/121 site.

red dot SAD (content update)

red dot SAD will ultimately be a printed book of about 300 pages. The contents reflect 15 years of a creative life, one based in Singapore. Besides fiction, rdS includes reports and essays about art, VR, AR, photography, video and food.The list below does not include the many photographs and images in rDS.

The current ebook version of red dot SAD is available on Amazon. Those who purchase the current version will receive the updated ebook versions free of charge. This is explained here, on Medium and here on this blog.

I Ate Carrot Cake This Morning

My life is built upon a foundation of grated carrots, walnuts and lemon glaze.

Smoke and Mirrors

Long live the homemade satay cart of Tiong Bahru! (a chapter from the bestselling i ate tiong bahru)

Haikus

Five-seven-five, all night long.

Contact With Lightning

Frisbee and shock on the lawn of Fort Canning.(a chapter from Contact With Shadow)

The Unseen Guest: Checkpoint (album review)

Li Cassidy-Peet

She taught singing.

The Aloha of God

Hawaii, Vietnam, Selma and orchids. Obama.

Correspondence

You can’t make this up.

Hummingbird vs. Helicopter

Most accurately: Hummingbird vs. Helicopter vs. Happy Crab

A Star is Born or Something

3how is rocknrollwritingperformanceart. We don’t explore anything. We laugh when it breaks.

A Story about the Armenian Alphabet, Vitamin Supplements and the Singapore National Library

All you need is love and Vitamin B.

Your Super Restaurant (Hugh Howey Must D’yer Maker)

Connecting the spicy dots between the Father of Amish Sci-fi, self-publishing and a guy who’s angry at Stephen Colbert.

I’m a Kway, You’re a Kway

A clueless American food artist and a legendary recipe for a 4000 year old auspicious Chinese pastry. What could go wrong?

How I Met Shigeru Miyamoto, the Man who created Mario and Donkey Kong

It was a dark and snowy night. Suddenly…

Notes on the Blue Flower

Mud, Concrete and Stars, Beauty and Hope(text written for an exhibition by Philipp Aldrup)

The Red Dot Museum

A museum full of award-winning design.

Mysticus fragrans: nutmeg

Charlotte Brontë reports on what really happened upon that fateful night at Fort Canning. A never before told story of Sir Raffles and Lady Sophia.

The Eye of Flesh

Rice seasonings:poetic and visionary. (a chapter from >Furikake)

Happy as Larry

A chicchetti (little savoury snacks) tour with Carla Bonollo. One of the pieces written for SPOKEN, the virtual art exhibition created by Eugene Soh and SB.(www.gallery.sg)

The Music of Will Sun

Medication and meditations for broken bones and hearts. (A chapter from Bali Wave Ghost)

red dot SAD (content update)Self-portrait as MPG

Do you think this is some kind of game?

Biff “Grayboox” Enum:Game Developer

Exclusive interview with the mastermind who behind the multi-platform megahit Powerfrog Troopers Revolution 6:the Croak Goes On.

Five Things I Learned on My First 360 “VR” shoot

Stephen Black :VR Startup in Singapore. Why?

Stephen Black :VR/AR Startup Plans

red dot SAD reinvents Amazon (kinda)

red dot SAD is a snapshot of Stephen Black’s creative life in Singapore, from 2002 to 2017. The nonfiction topics include art, AR, VR, gaming, 3how, photography and daily life in Singapore.

The red dot SAD book project:

1. Offers money for value: the 99 cent, 129 page book contains stories, images and essays, including an extract from i ate tiong bahru, a national bestseller in Singapore.

2. Continually adds content to create new versions that replace the existing version on Amazon.(Latest additions here.)

3. Sends, by email, the new versions to those who have purchased a previous edition.

The reasons for this trial are:

1. Crowdfunding-in-disguise. Directing a “fan base” of readers towards Amazon means they can immediately receive an ebook and join in the rdS experience. Even a small number of sales is beneficial. Although there is a less concentrated effort than a crowdfunding campaign, an equal or greater amount of funds can be generated over a longer period.

2. The crowdfunding-in-disguise idea can stimulate Amazon’s algorithms, further generating interest. Increased rankings and positive “list activity” can result.

3. Those who request updated versions likely will contribute some form of feedback

4. Ideally, a percentage of these readers will leave reviews, and share the book info with other readers.

minimal book covers

red dot SAD (Stories Art, Digitalia 2002-2017) book by Stephen Black

The Amazoncentric ideas I am experimenting with are not that different from those used in the serialization of novels. What is different is that a new ebook, with a considerable amount of new content, is being sent to those who purchased previous editions. In the world of physical art and books, limited editions hold value for collectors. This may prove to be also true for the “outdated” offline digital versions of rdS.

Related to this, I am now researching the possibilities that have just arisen from a partnership between Reedsy and Blurb. Reedsy’s book editor has been invaluable to me. If the workflow with Blurb is what I hope it is, the files of new versions can be easily replaced, This, in turn, means that older print versions will become limited editions.

Ultimately, I hope that the final version of red dot SAD, with a few hundred pages,either becomes a very successful self-published project, or is picked up by someone like as Phaidon or Steidl. The result of fifteen creative years in Singapore, I believe red dot SAD will be an interesting visual and written document. The book's journey is, and will be, an interesting one.

(The image used in the header of this post is a photograph of a sculpture called Manifold, by Gerald Leow.)